Gokongwei Brothers Foundation marks 25th year with vow to keep supporting science, engineering education

December 16, 2017 - 11:15 PM
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James Cembrano, one of the scholars of the GBF, at work. HANDOUT PHOTO

MANILA – Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) is marking its 25th anniversary with a firm commitment to keep supporting science and engineering courses as part of its bid to make a lasting impact on education in the Philippines.

“From the beginning, I knew education would be the foundation’s primary advocacy. Why? Because it is my belief that education is the only way to save this country,” JG Summit founder and chairman John Gokongwei Jr. said.

GBF was established in 1992 by Gokongwei and his brothers Johnson, Henry and James.

“We have to strengthen our hold on our science and engineering courses… That’s the only way to help our country industrialize,” he said.

GBF’s first major project was establishing in 1999 the GBF Technical Training Center (TTC), a P150-million facility envisioned to be a world-class continuing school for engineers.

In 2011, GBF’s significant endowment led to the establishment of the De La Salle University Gokongwei College of Engineering (DLSU-GCOE).

At present, three of seven scholarships administered by GBF support college students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). More than half of GBF’s 484 scholars are undergraduate students enrolled in STEM courses.

INVESTING IN STEM

JG Summit president and GBF board secretary Lance Gokongwei sees investment in STEM as having a big impact on the Philippine economy.

“It’s always been the belief of my father that the Philippines needs to broaden its base beyond just providing services— to have real institutionalized capabilities in terms of manufacturing in order for us to have a broader-based economy that can compete more effectively throughout the world. We want to make investing in STEM the main focus of our foundation,” he said.

Concurrent with its efforts to hone future scientists and engineers, GBF devotes itself to providing quality technical-vocational education to produce skilled workers.

In 2014, GBF, together with Universal Robina Corporation Branded Consumer Foods Group (URC-BCFG), established GBF Iskolar ni Juan Tech-Voc program, a fully subsidized one-year scholarship for high school graduates or out-of- school youth.

Boarded at the GBF TTC, scholars take GBF’s signature TESDA-registered program in mechatronics and instrumentation servicing, followed by on-the- job training and employment as production operator at URC-BCFG.

As of October 2017, all 93 graduates of the program have been hired by URC-BCFG.

Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, GBF general manager, believes education gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to succeed.

“I feel happy whenever I hear about how youths who had no options suddenly felt that their future was brighter because of this scholarship. Through helping one person, the scholars are able to help their families, and hopefully, their communities as well— bigger and bigger circles,” she said.

ENDOWMENTS TO ATENEO, DLSU

Prior to the DLSU-GCOE endowment, GBF also gave educational support leading to the establishment of the Ateneo John Gokongwei School of Management in 2002.

Endowments to DLSU and Ateneo have funded facility building and improvement, scholarships and student enrichment, and research and faculty development.

As of September 2017, GBF has produced 337 graduates through its college, technical-vocational and high school scholarship programs.

Aside from running scholarship programs and the GBF TTC, the foundation also collaborates with strategic partners inside and outside JG Summit for causes related to education.

In 2011, GBF donated 18 two-classroom preschool buildings in various provincial sites through Aklat, Gabay, Aruga, Tungo sa Pag-Angat at Pag-Asa Foundation.

Lance Gokongwei said his family, thankful for the opportunities education has led to, wants to pay it forward.

“We try to level the playing field by giving equality of opportunities for one of the most critical determinants of future success: access to education. Hopefully, we are able to help a few thousand Filipinos achieve a level of education that they may not have had,” he said.

The man who sits at the helm of the business, John Gokongwei, was himself unable to complete his university education. His innate curiosity and love for learning, however, helped him become a successful entrepreneur.

Despite his success as a self-taught man, Gokongwei put a premium on formal education, sending his siblings to the best schools he could afford at that time, and eventually pursued a master’s degree for himself.

“He saw the difference that education made in his life and that of his siblings, and he wanted to share that opportunity to as many Filipinos as he could,” said Lance Gokongwei.

Marking its 25th anniversary, GBF produced a video and magazine commemorating its milestones and stories of impacted lives.

In a letter sent to JG Summit & Affiliates employees, Lance Gokongwei said he hoped the stories will be a “source of inspiration for you as they are for me in striving to make lives better”.